If you had your eye on the headlines today, you might have seen some news about quality calories – aka QC’s.
What on earth are quality calories?
The ‘quality calories’ concept is a new campaign from the British Nutrition Foundation which encourages us to look at not just the number of calories we’re eating, but the quality of those calories.
This is because the number of calories in a food doesn’t tell us anything about what nutrients those calories come packaged with.
Banana Vs Chocolate
Here’s an obvious example – a banana and 20 grams of chocolate both contain around 100 calories, but each comes packaged with different nutrients alongside those 100 calories.
With the chocolate you’ll get around 10 grams of free sugars (the ones we’re encouraged to eat less of), some fat, a teeny bit of protein and well, not much else.
A banana doesn’t contain any free sugars – they’re all naturally occurring. Along with those natural sugars you’ll also get a couple of grams of fibre, 25% of your vitamin C and 10% of your potassium intake for the day, plus some energy giving B vitamins.
Now, we all know that a banana gives us more nutrients than a piece of chocolate, but extend this thinking across meals and you get the picture!
Focusing on calories alone can leave us falling short…
In fact, it’s perfectly possible to consume enough calories and macronutrients (carb, protein and fat) without meeting your vitamin and mineral needs if you’re focused on calories alone.
The BNF campaign is a good reminder to ‘QC’ your meals and think about what swaps you can make to get the most ‘nutrition’ from your calories – this is even more important if you’re reducing calories to lose weight,because your calorie budget is even smaller than normal.
Could you swap from a white bread to a wholegrain? Swap cornflakes for oats? Could you swap something sugary for some fruit? Could you swap a small handful of nuts and seeds instead of a bag of crisps? Add herbs to your evening meal?
These swaps will do more than increase the vitamins and minerals in your diet, they’ll also boost the fibre content, which can help you stay fuller longer. Don’t forget your gut bacteria also love a fibre boost, so it’s a win win all round.
Food for thought indeed.